18 Months

I woke up this morning with the anxiety-laden realization that, as of May 1, I am exactly eighteen months away from turning forty years old.

Sure, I’m anxious about this, which is a mix of social training and pressures from external forces, but in reality, I’m also anxious about it on the inside.  My body is not that of a twenty-year-old anymore, and hasn’t been for exactly that amount of time.  I have been rather abusive towards the flesh I’m in, bouncing up and down in weight and size repeatedly over those years.  I’ve flung myself from calm repose to panicked insanity more times than I can count, and through all of that, my body has taken on the scars – externally and internally.

This morning, as the weight of all of this pressed down on my flabby, fatty, man-boob chest, I decided to face it down with a walk.  I needed to clear the air, clear my mind, and just get out there and press the pavement for a bit.  Walking, as always, seems to have helped me clean out the cobwebs and set me up for some productive thoughts, increasing with each stride and milepost I passed.

I am going to set up a personal fitness challenge for each month.  For the month of May, to mark the start of my eighteen months of crunch time, I’ve set a goal to walk at least 100 miles.  Walk, run, skip, hike, or whatever movement with my feet underneath me – but a 100 miles by May 31.  I did some quick math, and that works out to twenty-five miles a week, and if today’s walk is any indication of the speed and time that will require, I can do a five-mile walk in just over an hour.  I now, as of today, have a loop that is measured out for me, and that I can do, and add in variables such as taking different side-streets, adding in a stop for coffee or the bathroom, or even run at parts.  What I need to do now, though, is commit to doing this five times a week.  My days off, Monday through Thursday, will allow for this to be a morning ritual.  What I do need to do, though, is pick a day during my work period – Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, to complete one more loop.

I can do this.  I can fight back the urge to just collapse at the end of a day and say goodbye to the world in it’s entirety.

Alongside this walking goal, I’m going to pay closer attention to what and how much I eat.  Right now, even though I’ve had spurts of “healthy clean eating,” basically, it all breaks down at least once or twice a week and I reach for the pizza, peanut butter, or beer/liquor.  While I could promise myself that I’m going to not do those things, the reality is I’m not going to give them up.  I enjoy them too much.  What I can do, though, is mitigate them and their caloric grandiosity by countering those richer days with leaner days.

What I don’t need to do, though, is make this whole experiment stressful.  The other night, while Ray and I were having a “reset conversation” about the state of things in our relationship, he called me out on my obsession with my weight and size.  It bugs him that do it.  It bugs him to hear me go on and on about how fat I am or how weak I’ve become.  The fact is, he loves me in all of my various states and shapes.  He is supportive of me and my efforts without castigating me when I slip and fall.  He’s the first person to offer a glass of wine after a long, awful day, and while I know it’s not the most healthy way to deal with that kind of stress, I will not deny the deliciousness that is a fine red wine.

I can do this.  I can find a balance.  I can make the next eighteen months count.  I can make them as enjoyable as I dare.  I can’t wait to see where this takes me.

Progress?

I weighed myself yesterday.

And yes, before you even start, I can see your eyes roll, and I can hear the words “SCALES ARE AWFUL YOU SAID SO YOURSELF I CAN’T EVEN UGH” coming out of your mouth.  Believe me.  I can hear you.

Over the past year, I’ve put on a hefty amount of weight.  I mean, I’m about twenty pounds less than my most pudgy ever.  Or, at least I was before I started this little walking routine.  It’s only been a week, and I’ve also been incorporating a decent amount of fiber into my diet (read: the volume of ‘waste’ I’m producing is up), but when all is said and done, I apparently lost five pounds.

Five.

In my first week.

Of course, I also know that, with any bump in exercise, or change in diet for the better, the first bit often reveals a lot of weight loss.  Water weight, or whatever, tends to dump quickly.  As the body adjusts, according to what I’ve read, I need to keep changing it up in order to maintain a state of flux (and weight loss/muscle gain) about every couple of weeks or so.  I know that five pounds is a lot to lose in just one week, but just for a minute, I’m going to revel in this.

Please, let me.  Don’t be a Debbie-downer.  Or, better yet, be one, but know I’m sticking my fingers in my ears and ignoring you.

I LOST FIVE GOD DAMNED POUNDS AND IT FEELS SO DAMN GOOD.

This week, I’m paying more attention to the sugars and starches, and while I’m certainly not zero-carb at all, even just being aware and making dietary choices that limit the sugar I do intake seems to be helping.  I managed to get through yesterday without too many bumps in the road – though I did learn that the yoghurt that I like has about 45g of sugar per serving (one cup), so that’s a little shocking.  I also have limited myself with the sugar in my coffee, and I’m trying to navigate lunch in a way that doesn’t involve a sandwich.  Yesterday, I will admit, was tough.  Work was super-stressful, but now that I know my runs for this week, hopefully today will go better.  I can plan better.  I can pack a few pieces of fruit to get me through my six-hour shift of bringing people to a mall at Christmas.

This morning’s walk had me daydreaming about my mother’s visit in March.  I am looking forward to her arrival, and am curious as to what we are going to get up to.  I know she’s a cyclist, so we might rent bikes for the week and get out and about in Portland that way.  I also want to take her to the coast, possibly for a hike.  I really think she’s going to love it here, but I need to get physically fit enough to keep up with her.  She’s super-duper active.  I’ve got three months and a few miles of walking ahead of me, so I think I’ll be alright.  We shall see.  In all, the daydreaming while walking is great.  I can feel my thoughts bubbling up to the surface.  I can wrestle a thought while putting one foot in front of the other, and simply let my mind float.  This was something I loved to do while I was running last year, but those thoughts were often dark and angry.  I’m not dark or angry any more.

I’m loving the newness of all of this.  I love this different aspect of my life.  It is something both old and fresh at the same time.  I’m optimistic, as always, and can’t wait to see where I end up with all of this come this time next year.

Just Taking a Walk

I had a conversation this morning with my friend Amanda.  She and I, both of the same age and from the same hometown, are staring down the idea of being 40 years old in the not-too-distant future.  We both have body issues, and have both been caught up in the pursuit of acceptance and belonging based solely on how our bodies are formed; the more beautiful we are, the more people will want to get to know us.  Over the past year or so, though, we’ve both changed our minds.  Thankfully.

As I’ve shared before, I’ve put on some weight over the last year due to the conflagration of having a sit-down job and giving up a workout regime that had me lifting and running whenever possible.  Instead of spending my time chasing down what I think my body should look like, I’ve opted to spend more of my downtime getting to know Ray, and going on camping and hiking adventures with him that have brought me a true sense of peace and joy.  I’ve let go of the anxiety that drove me to the gym and out on the pavement to run in the first place, and in its place I have allowed myself to simply enjoy the present-tense of my life.  Of course, this has softened my body.  I’ve had fits and starts about getting back to my original goals, and pushing myself to stick to a plan that has me at the gym three times a week, with running added in there too.  I’ve had moments, especially when Ray was overseas, when I could feel myself falling back into that pattern as a means of dealing with my anxiety and worries, but each time I started, it was a mixed bag of emotions – good and bad.  Something had changed, and something wasn’t right about every time I’d started working out again, which is why I simply dropped the plan again and again.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been mulling over what I should do.  It’s clear, I need to keep exercise in my life, but it has to have a different reason for being part of my day-to-day existence.  I can’t exercise as a way to beat back anxiety demons, and then drop it once those demons are placated.  I need to do something sustainable, something that fits into my life, and is simple, and seemingly effortless.  One of the senior drivers I met the other week said something that hit home.  She looked me square in the face and said, “Get up out of that seat as much as you can.  Do not sit still for too long.”  I’ve taken that to heart.

One of the most basic movements that I am able to do is take a walk.  I’ve always been a walker, whether walking all the way to my grandmother’s house as a kid along a woody riverside path, to walking five miles to work simply because I was up before the buses were running.  I have always prided myself on being able to set my mind to right simply by putting one foot in front of the other and just walking.  It was in that spirit that this week, I set a project for myself.  My work schedule is such that I don’t go to work until 1p all week long, and I’m not out so late that can’t get up at a decent, reasonable time in the morning.  I took the opportunity to set a small goal for myself: go for a walk every morning this week, and just see how I feel come Saturday.

Today, Wednesday, is day three of this little project.  Each morning, I’ve walked about two miles through my neighborhood, at a steady pace.  There’s a little cafe along my route which provides a little motivation in a cup, and in my ears, I have the chance to catch up on podcasts and the news.  All in all, by the time I’m done, there’s a little glow of perspiration on my body, and I feel like I’ve started my day off on the right foot.  So far, this is a very doable, very manageable, very achievable goal of mine.  So far, it feels good.

I told this to Amanda this morning, and she said something that struck a chord.  She said her approach to exercise has changed too.  She’s decided that exercise is more about health rather than seeking to achieve model status.  This, for her, has added back the fun-factor when she goes to the gym, and when she can’t make it, she says she doesn’t go crazy with guilt and remorse.  I heartily agree with her.

I’m done feeling bad for not hitting the gym.  I’m done with beating myself up every time I take off my shirt.  I’m done with comparing myself to the hundreds of beautiful men I see daily, both online and in real life.  In the end, just taking a walk seems to be just what I need to do.  Working out is not an act of desperation any longer.  It’s me, being human, doing something at human-scale.  It’s not CrossFit or trying to prove to the world around me that I’m worthy of it’s approval.  It’s not military-grade intense.  Laying this foundation – by shifting my approach, along with setting small, fully-attainable goals, I think I’ve hit a button that suits me.  Finally.